OTR Interviews

Santorum on 2008 endorsement of Romney as 'true conservative': 'Unfortunately, he's done a lot of things that have undermined my trust'

GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum answers Mitt Romney's questions about his economic credentials and his own questions about rival's conservative beliefs

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 19, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: With the Illinois voters heading to the polls in eight-and-a-half hours, you might think Senator Rick Santorum's only battles are with the other GOP candidates, but it's not. Tonight Senator Rick Santorum is also duking it out via Twitter with President Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod. Today Axelrod tweeted "With a seven-to-one spending edge hard to see Mitt not rolling in Illinois tomorrow. You can't turn on the TV without seeing two or three negative ads on Santo."

And Senator Santorum fired back from the campaign trail. He said "Hopefully people vote for the man over the money."

Senator Santorum joins from East Peoria, Illinois. Good evening, Senator.

RICK SANTORUM, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Greta. It's great to be with you here in East Peoria. We just had a great rally out back of well over 1,000 people. We had about 2,000 people in Dixon. And I was standing in front of the Ronald Reagan statue right there in the heart of Dixon. It's just been a great day. Moline and Rockford, we've had a great day here in Illinois.

VAN SUSTEREN: Illinois is a great state. Now, tell me about this battle you are having with David Axelrod on Twitter.

SANTORUM: Well, you know, we've seen in these past elections that money just doesn't buy elections. If it did, Mitt Romney would have sewed up this nomination a long time ago. He has been outspending all the candidates five, six, seven, eight, 10 to one, and it's not winning the election. And we have got the energy and the enthusiasm on our side. And David Axelrod is entitled to his opinion, but 10 times he's been wrong. We won 10 states. And if we are fortunate enough to pull off a huge upset here in Illinois -- and I know it would be an upset, but, you know, that's what they said last week in Mississippi, we couldn't do it there, and we did.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, explain this one, how you get around this one to me. There was a video posted today, it's a Governor Mitt Romney video from 2008, and you are standing there endorsing him saying "No one puts words in my mouth. If you want a conservative, you must vote for Mitt Romney." Now you're saying four years later that he is not the conservative. So how do you get around that video?

SANTORUM: Well, you should also watch later in that video where Mitt Romney thanked me for the endorsement and then goes on and calls me the true conservative and someone who is strong and principled on economic issues and national security expertise. We were saying good things about each other, and I was endorsing him for president four years ago. But unfortunately over that four-year period of time, he's done a lot of things that have undermined my trust in him. And first was supporting the Wall Street bailout, second was advocating for "RomneyCare" at the federal level, which he did in 2009. He said, oh, it was just for Massachusetts, but he wrote op-eds and went on television and said that President Obama should follow the Massachusetts model.

That's the wrong approach. It's a government run, top-down approach. It's the wrong approach for the federal government. I opposed Obamacare. And we can't have a candidate in Mitt Romney who gives away the most important issue in the race, which is our economic freedom with Obamacare.

VAN SUSTEREN: It's sort of hard in these races to sort out what's a legitimate question to ask of candidates and what is sort of pitting one against the other, but today I think it's an issue raised that Governor Romney referred to you as an economic lightweight. On the flipside, your campaign has been hitting him for the last couple of days on putting his dog on the roof of the car. So let's take one by one. He says you are an economic lightweight, and so I take it you have some economic policy to respond to that. Your thoughts?

SANTORUM: It's really interesting that Governor Romney, whose record as governor of Massachusetts was 47th out of 50th in the country in job creation, after the previous four years Massachusetts was 16th in the nation. And --

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, let me stop you there. They did have -- they also had a very low unemployment right at the time. I think you have to factor that in, as well.

SANTORUM: Well, as you know, Greta, we had a low unemployment rate everywhere. The unemployment rate was 4.3 percent across the country during that period of time. So, yes, everybody had an unemployment rate, but still, compared to everybody else, he wasn't getting people moving into the state. They weren't creating jobs. Look at what going on in Texas and other states where people were moving in droves because they created an environment for people to be able to grow their businesses and expand. And Governor Romney didn't do that. He put in Romneycare, which was a huge red flag to businesses not to come to Massachusetts.

As I said, he created six times more public sector jobs than private sector jobs, and he increased taxes by almost $1 billion, and, you know, he did all sorts of spending increases, about a 40 percent spending increase. This is not someone who understands how to -- he may have done well on Wall Street, but he didn't apply the principles of limited government intervention in business when he came to the governorship of Massachusetts. And that's why he didn't run for reelection, because he couldn't have gotten reelected with the record that he had.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, yesterday on -- it's ABC on the question of Afghanistan, you said in reference to Afghanistan, let's either commit to winning or get out. If you were president tonight, which one is it? Are we committing to staying in there and winning or are we getting out because -- for whatever reason?

SANTORUM: Well, I've been very clear that I believe that we don't get involved, we don't get our military involved in any situation unless we commit to victory. And President Obama when he took office said he was going to, you know, fight the real war, if you recall. And the real war was Afghanistan, and he quickly put a timeline. And when he put a timeline in place, what he did was he gave the enemy something that we can never give the enemy in this situation, which is hope. And he gave the enemy hope that we would have -- they would have the opportunity to hunker down and be able to survive it. And that's why we've had the limited success we've had in Afghanistan.

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, but if you are president, I mean, whoever is the next president, whether it's President Obama or someone else, that's the past. We now have that. In light of the fact that anyone who comes into the office has to deal with the situation we are in. So looking back at why we got there isn't going to do us particularly good. What would you be doing if you became president in light of where we are? We have a timeline. Maybe get rid of it, maybe not, but what would you do?

SANTORUM: Well, if we were still in Afghanistan when I became president, I would, again, you have to assess the situation and see where we are. But assuming that we are in a similar situation that we are right now, I would commit to making sure that we had success. I would do what is necessary to demoralize the enemy, to let him know that we are going to stay there. It may not be in the capacity we are now. We may have a whole different troop complement, a whole different strategy. But the strategy would be to successfully eliminate the Taliban as a threat. It doesn't mean you will completely eliminate the Taliban, but eliminate it as a threat, and that is the objective in Afghanistan.

VAN SUSTEREN: In campaigning around Illinois, the most important issue people ask you about most often is what?

SANTORUM: Well, I mean, people are anxious about a whole variety of different things. Obviously the economy, people are concerned about the economy. I hear a lot about the debt and the deficit and what we are doing as far as bankrupting this country. And I hear a lot about Obamacare and the issue of freedom.

I always talk about that there's big things at stake in this election, that the economy is important, unemployment is important, but that's not the big issue. The big issue is how we are losing our freedom because really government controlling businesses and peoples' lives is what's causing the economy to be in such bad straits right now. So we have to look at the fundamental issue, and the fundamental issue in America is whether we are going to be a free country or whether government is going to be dictating to us what healthcare, what loans, what cars and everything else in our lives.

VAN SUSTEREN: You say that, I mean, I heard that earlier today, and it's been sort of bandied around, the gaffe by you saying that unemployment is not important, that freedom is more important. And I was trying to think about what to ask you about or how to ask it. I actually, maybe it's just me, but I actually think if you are unemployed, as much as you love those lofty principles of freedom and you want to keep them, that sort of unemployment sort of rises to the top as a more current and a more important issue, and it is an urgent issue for a lot of Americans. And so it's freedom is important and everything, but boy, that job is real important.

SANTORUM: Well, yes, you have to understand, what I said was that the unemployment rate -- it didn't matter what it was between now and election time, because the fundamental issue that's causing the unemployment, that's causing the economic distress in our country, is the fact that the government is imposing its will and mandating things on people and creating a yoke on top of businesses that makes it hard to employ.

So if you want to solve the unemployment problem, you have to solve the regulatory tax and government oppression problem. So one is the cause of the other. So it's not that unemployment isn't important, it's just you have to get to the foundational root cause of what is causing the unemployment.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, I understand you have a Secret Service name that everyone now knows. Is it Petrus, is that the name?

SANTORUM: Yes, that's the name. Petrus, yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: Can you give us any more background on that?

SANTORUM: Oh, yes, Petrus is the Latin word for "Peter." And you've heard me talk repeatedly about my grandfather. His name was Pietro. And I just didn't think Pietro would work. I just -- it's a name and I didn't want a name. So I thought Petrus, which is the Latin word for "Peter" and for "rock." I thought was a more apt name than an Italian name for Peter.

VAN SUSTEREN: I understand Governor Romney's name is Javelin. Any sort of final thoughts on that? We might as well end of sort of on a light note, on your Secret Service names.

SANTORUM: No. I think -- I understand he named it after an American Motors car. I remember the Javelin. It was a very -- it was an unusual car. So I think it sort of fits.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Senator, thank you. And good luck tomorrow. Polls open in about eight hours, and we will be watching, of course. Thank you, Senator.

SANTORUM: Thank you very much, Greta.